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Full text of "Influences in American painting 1963 with a presentation of the thesis paintings"

INFLUENCES IN ATffiRICAN PAINTING I963 
WITH A PRESENTATION OP THE THESIS PAINTINGS 



by 



JOHN A. BRITTON 



B. A., Kansas State University, 1962 



A MASTER'S THESIS 



submitted in partial fulfillment of the 



requirements for the degree 



MASTER OP ARTS 



College of Architecture and Design 



KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY 
Manhattan, Kansas 



196i|. 



Appr^jijed by: 

^^ 

?feJor Professor 




LD 

20(,t 

Ti 



ii 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION 1 

ROMANTIC REALISM 2 

PRECISION REALISM k 

SURREALISM 5 

SOCIAL COMfffiNTATORS AND SYMBOLISTS 7 

EXPRESSIONISM ..... 9 

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM 12 

SEMI-ABSTRACTION 16 

GEOMETRIC ABSTRACTION l8 

"POP ART" 20 

CONCLUSION 26 

DISCUSSION AND PRESENTATION OF THESIS PAINTINGS 27 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT 39 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 1|.0 



y* 



INTRODUCTION 



Whatever determines the creative life span of a style of 
painting is one of the mysteries of art and to solve it within 
the limits of this thesis would be impossible. Instead, the pur- 
pose of writing this paper was to determine to the author's sat- 
isfaction the prevalent styles influencing American art in 1963. 
In order to accomplish this purpose, careful research and weigh- 
ing of various opinions of art historians along with the study 
of statements by the artists involved was necessary. Many con- 
temporary art books studied appeared to be biased toward one 
particular movement or style. Others proved to be so encompass- 
ing as to say very little about the actual aims of the painters 
involved. Therefore, I beg the indulgence of the reader if some 
of the styles discussed in this thesis appear to be slanted as 
to importance in the instances where a current in painting was 
felt to be strong enough to merit attention, but proved small in 
number of painters. A general non-committal attitude of a great 
many of the painters involved proved to be an additional diffi- 
culty. 

This thesis was written with the intent to clarify certain 
aspects of contemporary American painting and to strengthen or 
discredit some of the candidate's existing opinions and beliefs 
prior to this research and writing. It is the hope of the can- 
didate that others might find this research beneficial in clari- 
fying certain aspects of their own work or to provide them with 
a different insight into the painting of 1963» 



2 

In conjunction with this discussion, the candidate has 
presented a group of paintings created during the time of this 
writing, A brief essay accompanies the works containing some of 
the candidate's views pertaining to the various problems and 
aspects of his studio work, 

ROMANTIC REALISM 

A logical beginning for a discussion of the American paint- 
ing styles prevalent In 1963 appeared to be one of the various 
facets of realism. Realism or some form of more or less realis- 
tic delineation of subject matter to convey a statement to th» 
viewer is as old as art as we know It, Since prehistoric times 
man has sought to depict his life and surroundings in a natura- 
listic manner. Until the invention of the camera, art was 
necessary If for no other reason than its function as a visual 
recording device. 

One of the oldest styles prevalent today in American paint- 
ing has to do with the depiction of realistic subject matter to 
express a romantic attitude or meaning. For the purpose of dis- 
cussion, I have labeled this style romantic realism. There has 
been a marked decrease since 191+0 in the nxoraber of painters in 
America working in this style. Many men who once belonged in 
this group have moved In other directions and apparently few 
younger painters have chosen to follow this devotion to realism 
and motif which this style demands. Nearly all the good romantic 
realists working in 1963 were bound together by something other 



3 

than merely a desire to fool the eye with a clever manipulation 
of paint. There exists a common bond In their work which Is that 
each one has something to say about the meaning of life. Realism 
as such has remained Important to them in that they deal with 
specific situations concerning man and nature, which only a quite 
exacting use of medium and motif can portray. 

In studying these painters they sometimes appeared as two 
groups. One was interested in the romantic portrayal of a speci- 
fic mood and the other interested in the interpretation of objec- 
tive events. However, the two overlap to such an extent that it 
was unnecessary to separate them in this discussion. 

Typical of painters of this style in 1963 were Charles 
Burchfield, Alexander Brook, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Ben 
Kamlhlra, These men were not the only painters representative of 
this style, but they seemed consistent enough In approach over a 
period of time to appear as a group In this writing. 

Statements made by these painters showed them to be quite 
Intolerant of other styles In painting and In general admirers of 
each others work. Most authors seemed xoncertaln as to whether or 
not romantic realism as presented here would continue to attain 
enough support to be classed as a major style In American paint- 
ing, but none would refute the fact that they have contributed 
much in the use of exacting painting techniques and more Impor- 
tant the methods of conveying a specific mood from the canvas to 
the viewer. 



PRECISION REALISM 

Although the ranks of the romantic realists have thinned 
somewhat in recent years another form of extreme realism has 
grown steadily. This growth has taken place In the development 
of a form of precise realism not unrelated to the "fool the eye" 
painting of the late 19th century. A grouping of some of the 
painters of this style In 1963 would Include George Tooker, 
Charles Sheeler, Paul Cadmus and Walter Murch, 

Tooker might have summed up much of the feeling of thlg 
group In Seldon Rodman's book. Conversations with Artists , There 
he states that his aim Is to paint reality so hard that It recurs 
fts a dream. As a group these men are primarily analytical rather 
than visual In their treatments of the subject. The effect Is 
more like looking at life with a magnifying glass rather than 
exactly mirroring reality, "Nearly all the American artists 
painting In this style owe a debt to the work of Grant Wood," 

These painters strive to create an aura of mystery In th» 
commonplace objects which they observe. Some of them such as 
Paul Cadmus occupy a rather ambiguous position which Is somewhere 
between objective statement and satirical Intent, Others of the 
group strive to make a comment on general human condition. The 
common ground shared by artists In this style was a notable lack 
of Interest In llluslonism for Its own sake and a need to express 
themselves In the most precise Imagery, 



^John I, H, Baur, American Art of Our Century , p. I39, 



5 

The artists mentioned above have stayed within the 
boundaries of this grouping for some period of time. Others such 
88 Bernard Perlin and Stephen Greene have found It necessary to 
move on to a form of expression granting more freedom to the 
Individual artist. As early as 19^6, Perlin expressed a desire 
to loosen his technique. He felt the control of the style to be 
personally deadly and was forced to free himself. The artists 
mentioned as part of the group of precise realists as of 1963 
have apparently never felt confined by its dictations and con- 
tinued to keep the style healthy and not simply a return to the 
"fool the eye" style which existed primarily for the «ftke of 
illusionism. 

Painters such as Andrew Wyeth seem to fluctuate between 
romanticism and this more precise form of realism. Artists such 
as Wyeth make it most difficult to classify them into a definite 
style, however enoxigh painters were working with a form of pre- 
cise imagery and enough have recently used it as a depart\rp» 
point to cause me to count its presence as a strong influence in 
1963 painting, 

SURREALISM 

Surrealism was defined by its founder, Andre Breton, as: 

. . , pure psychic automatism, by which it is 
intended to express, verbally, in writing or by other 
means, the real process of thought. It is thought's 
dictation, all exercise of reason and every aesthetic 
or moral preoccupation being absent,^ 



John Bernard Meyers, Evergreen Review , p. 75« 



6 
Surrealism was less a style in I963 than a method; a method of 
most spontaneous transference of Images of the subconscious to 
the canvas without consideration as to form or design. It is 
apparent in this statement the profound influence sxirrealism has 
had on abstract expressionism. 

The surrealistic program of search for the material of art 
in the subconscious has had a great influence upon painters of 
fantasy and also upon many expressionists and realists, who have 
made use of its Irrational juxtapositions of pictorial elements. 
"Surrealistic and romantic painting are both born of a poetic 
imagination and poetic effect in a broad sense of the word", 
according to Alfred H, Barr, Jr., in a book on modern painting. 

There appeared to be few if any painters practicing sur- 
realism by 1963 in the sense that subconsciousness is the source 
of all that is valuable in art. The areas to which the sur- 
realists have made the most lasting contributions have previously 
been mentioned. Some of the artists closest to this style in 
1963 would be Morris Graves, Theodore Roszak (as a painter), 
Kurt Sellgman and Gerald McLaughlin, Perhaps these men should 
be labeled mystics rather than surrealists as none appeared 
surrealistic in a strict orthodox manner, Roszak and McLaughlin 
employed the violent disme-nberment of figvires and jxixtaposition 
of unrelated parts, Sellgman seemed to paint forms that truly 
must have prown from the inner mind. Each artist was in pvirsuit 
of his own private vision in areas far removed from common 
experience. 



7 

If dedicated introspection is enough justification to be 
called a surrealist than Morris Graves was perhaps the most sur- 
realistic painter of 1963, His works in his own words have to 
do with "phenomenal spaces, mental spaces and spaces of con- 
sciousness". Living nearly the life of a recluse his paintings 
grow one after another from consciously devised symbols, but the 
Images have forced their way up from the hidden recesses of the 
mind. 

Today orthodox surrealism in America seems nearly dead as a 
movement, but the currents of fantasy and of spontaneity which it 
released in our art still flow strongly in many diverse channels, 

SOCIAL COMMENTATORS AND SYMBOLISTS 

Until the time of the French Revolution art had a definite 
social fianction. It had to act as historian and spokesman for 
the church, royalty and aristocracy. The creative artists in 
our age have been individualists rather than instltutionalists; 
more interested in htaraan and democratic values than in champion- 
ing material power and wealth. Although the American social 
movement of the early 1900 's did not survive the world events of 
the late 1930 's, it had a permanent influence on American art. 
It Introduced moral convictions into painting and sculpture, 
broadened subject matter to include issues vital to everyone, 
and introduced new elements of imagination and new forms of 



Seldon Rodman, Conversations with Artists , p. 12, 



8 

symbolism* By 1963 » social content was still a part of American 

painting with strong individual exponents. It was no longer th» 

•ingle propaganda as in the 1930*8, but an art which used social 

material for imaginative ends. The dominate attitude had shifted 

to one of sympathy and humanity. The general approach of the 

social painters of 1963 had changed as had their subjects. 

Social comment, by Its nature, was a reflection of the Issues 

which concern man at a given moment, and these issues rarely 

remain constant. 

Most of the paintings of the early 1960's which 
might be considered as social comment tend to deal 
with the nature of man and of his relations to oiher 
men rather than with specific economic problems,^ 

A group of painters who In 1963 were still concerned with 
this type of painting would Include Ben Shahn, Jacob Lawrence, 
Jack Levlne, Robert Gwathney and Philip Evergood, The first four 
men would be excellent examples of social commentators as nearly 
all of their work has been conceived along this line. Evergood, 
however, was an example of the painters who walked the thin line 
between social comment and expressionism. In his own words he 
was "interested in various liberal and radical causes" and felt 
that a painter must know the humanity of his time. On the other 
hand a great many of his paintings dealt with a subject so speci- 
fic that it could hardly be considered as social comment on the 
basis of Interest to the general public. 



John I, H. Baur, American Art of Our Century , p, 163, 



9 

Den Shahn expressed In words and painting a constant concern 
and compassion for suffering. His intention was to be absorbed 
with "man's state and not man's fate". He always started with an 
Idea, Shahn felt that he must strive to communicate more than a 
fragment of the world which vjas what he felt that the abstract 
expressionists did in their work, 

Robert Gwathney has been concerned with the American negroes 
and their relation to others. Jacob La;vrence, a negro painter, 
has been interested in expressing society in general and felt 
that he must express the capacity of the life and people around 
him. Jack Levine and his wife, Ruth Gilkow, both considered 
themselves to be primarily humanists. Jack Levine has confessed 
to painting with a script In mind and found a challenge in trying 
to beat the Instantaneous truths recorded by the camera. 

Social comment is not likely to disappear from painting as 
long as there are artists who feel that art is not an end In It- 
self, but a means by which the artist is morally obligated to 
use in the service of his fellow men. The underlying philosophy 
of social commentary painting has generally been quite liberal 
and humanitarian in natxire, one which finds life and art to be 
inseparable, 

EXPRESSIONISM 

Since the Armory show of 1913, expressionism has remained 
an important current In American painting. The number of artists 
embracing this style and its accompanying philosophies seemed to 
have rrown rather than diminished since the 19U0's, This 



10 

statement would be particularly valid If one were to Include 
within expressionism's boundaries the abstract expressionlstlc 
movement of the 1950 's. However, since the latter tended to 
break so decisively with imagery it will be discussed under a 
separate heading. Only expressionlatlc works, executed in a more 
or less representational vein which deal only with the recogniza- 
ble world and distort it in many ways to convey more vividly an 
expression or mood, come under this heading in this particular 
section. 

The leading figures even In this limited classlf ication did 
not really have a concise mutual program or much solidarity as a 
group. Each was striving to express a concept of life through a 
form of personal vision which had grown out of the artist's own 
nature. Their only common ground being that all have used marked 
distortions of visual reality and that these distortions were 
conceived so as to elevate feeling in a work over Intellect as 
the ultimate value in the painting. This intensity of feeling in 
a work la a true tradition of expressionism. Other traditional 
devices of expressionism developed in European painting and in 
particular in the work of the German painters were in general 
disregarded in the search for different forms of a more purely 
American form of expressionism. Expressionists in I963 owed a 
great debt to these earlier Europesn influences, but for the most 
part each artist in his own search for a personal expression had 
abandoned them, 

Karl Knaths was one of the oldest American expressionists 
painting In 1963, He had devoted his life to the search for new 



11 

methods of employing the common forms of subject matter as 
expressive pictorial elements, Lee Oatch was another painter of 
this same nature, Mr, Gatch related nature to abstraction but 
In his own opinion leaned moat heavily toward nature which he 
distorted to produce the haunting mood prevalent In a great 
majority of his works. Many painters from the so called "new 
figure school" would join this group within the limitations set 
forth, Richard Dlebenkorn was leaning heavily toward formal 
German expressionism in 1963. Elmer Blschoff was most expres- 
slonistlc in use of color and treatment of the figure as well at 
in the design of the picture plane. The paintings of Rico Lebrua 
come under this heading by his own statement that he has painted 
"a continuous, sustained, uncontrived image, motivated by nothing 
but passion". He constantly dealt with man's sufferings, tor- 
ments and fears as have many expressionists before him. 

Even people so diverse in style as John Hellker with his 
landscapes and Loren Maclver's paintings of the "simple miracles 
of life" showed common express lonls tic philosophy in that they 
both depicted a mood of enchantment in their work, 

Abraham Rattner could be the culmination of nearly every- 
thing that expressionism had promoted In American art by 1963, 
His curving lines of force and strong color were quite expres- 
sionlstlc tendencies. The strong emotional content was particu- 
larly evident in his various uses of religious motifs and in hla 
own words he has always worked on the idea of "reduction of ele- 
ments and strengthening of structure to arrange relationships in 
a work into a total unity". 



12 

The profound Issues of the spirit wore present In 
expressionism In 1963. "Ose of distortion was prevalent In the 
work of all the artists mentioned; although in some paintings, 
such as Lebrun's, the distortions were more organic than formal. 
Their motifs come from anything that might have struck a chord 
within the artist or from things which only suggest a formal 
possibility worth exploring. 

The type of expressionism done In 1963 required only that 
the artist trust his emotions and develop these Into his work 
end this In turn Into art by whatever transformation of nature 
he could devise, 

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM 

Abstract expressionism was the first American-born art move- 
ment to have a profound International effect. It has probably 
altered the character of American painting more than any other 
style In American art history; both In Its tremendous ntimber of 
followers and In the strong reactions against Its doctrines. 

There were many early sources for abstract expressionism 
which contradict the layman's belief that it simply sprang 
suddenly and without notice upon the American art scene. It 
Inherited Its reflection of subject matter from earlier forms of 
abstraction and from this rejection grew Its doctrine of the 
primacy of the medixim. It broke with cubism In discarding all 
aesthetic Interest, but It borrowed heavily from surrealism 



John I. H. Baur, American Art of Our Century , p, ?15. 



13 

2 

the guidance of the subconscious mind during the creative act. 

It pursued the theory of automatism and antl-aesthetlc belief 
to more extreme conclusions than every before. Pure abstract 
expressionism, as presented here, was In 1963 a deeply Introspec- 
tive art form, little changed by time since Its post World War II 
beginning. The abstract expresslonlstlc painters that will be 
discussed In the following paragraphs were still pxirsulng the 
original philosophies of this particular style in 1963. Many 
original followers had shifted directions by this time and were 
engrossed in developing a different form of abstraction from 
nature or a type of abstraction dealing primarily with geometric 
forms. These abstract styles will be discussed under separate 
headings* 

Abstract expressionism as presented here dealt with the 
original introspective form of art, with no intentional relation 
to the external world. In theory it was a form of self expres- 
sion rooted exclusively in the mind and spirit of the individual 
artists. It proved that the elements of design could be used in 
a way that was not primarily s esthetic and still embody impulse* 
that had valid artistic content in their own right. This know- 
ledge would be one of the rreatest contributions and influences 
of this movement. 

Since the following of the style has become so vast and has 
Involved so great a number of painters, a logical method of 
discussion would be to point out some of the better painters in 



John Bernard Meyers, Evergreen Review , pp. 76-78, 



14 

each of Ita areas of contribution of the use of certain 
expressive devices. The three main devices of expression brought 
to light by this group were: the development of a personal cal- 
ligraphy, the use of expressive brush stroke, the use of amor- 

3 

phous shapes and stains of color. 

Of these three, a personal calligraphy appeared to be the 
least popular with the abstract expressionistlc painters in 1963, 
Although it was the first innovation to gain a great deal of 
recognition through perhaps its greatest practitioner, Jackson 
Pollack, few painters chose to pursue this very difficult 
approach. One who did develop it en a giant scale was Pranx 
Kline, Since the deaths of both Kline and Pollack, only one 
importRnt American artist has continued to develop a personal 
calligraphic style as his moat important device for self expres- 
sion. That painter has been ?!ark Tobey, Although others used 
calligraphy extensively they seem to place themselves more 
readily into one of the latter two catagories. Calligraphy, how- 
ever has continued to have a sizable following among the impor- 
tant European painters which unfortunately are outside the 
limitations of this thesis, 

Mark Tobey was one of several artists who had been painting 
non-objectively long before it became fashionable. He was 
greatly Influenced and impressed by oriental thought and oriental 
calligraphy during visits to the Far East, Upon his ret\irn to 



3 
John I, H, Eaur, American Art of Our Century , pp, 2?0-222. 



15 

America he sought to employ calligraphy as an expressive tool In 
his painting,^ Tobey has never admitted to being an adherent to 
abstract expressionlstlc doctrine, but was convinced at an early 
date that the critical moment In a good painting definitely takes 
place in a type of introspective trance which guides the hand to 
solutions unthoupht of by the conscious mind. By this very 
belief he would merit discussion with this particular group. 

It is a much simpler task to list painters who employ an 
expressive brush stroke to help convey the content of their 
works to the viewer, Willem de Kooning would have to be one of 
the greatest pioneers of this style still painting in 1963, 
Other important painters to be Included would be Jack Tworkov, 
Joan Mitchell, James Brooks, Milton Resnlck, Paul Burlin and 
Philip Guston to name only a few. In the work of each of these 
men the feelings of life and motion conveyed to the viewer 
depend most heavily on their particular application of the paint 
to the surface. Some are quite methodical and others have the 
appearance of rapid execution, but each of the painters mentioned 
definitely had a personal although similar style to which a great 
deal of their strength must be attributed. 

In the use of amorphous shapes and stains of color one 
painter, Mark Rothko, came particularly to mind, Rothko claimed 
only to be interested in expressing basic human emotions, but 



*^Seldon Rodman, Conversations with Artists , p. 3, 
^Ibld,, p. U, 
Peter Seltz, Mark Rothko , p, 3, 



16 

In striving for this difficult form of communication he becsino a 
master of color and simple amorphous shape on a giant scale. 
Other painters of 1963 still Investigating the expressive possi- 
bilities of these particular devices were Conrad Marca-Relli, 
Theodores Stamos, Clifford Still, Robert Motherwell, Adolf 
Gottleib and Sam Francis. Each has contributed significantly to 
the movement and in each one's work the character of the brush- 
work has generally appeared to be subordinate to the form. 

The very freedom of abstract expressionism has perhaps been 
its greatest harm. Its innovators attracted many followers w!:io 
attempted to imitate their personal manipulations of the media 
without giving enough attention to the thought and considerationa 
beyond the surface image. In order to be strong in any particu- 
lar direction of art no matter what the medium, one must accept 
the mental disciplines of the movement, 

SIMI-ABSTRACTIOK 

In recent years the initial concepts of abstract expression- 
ism have been partially transformed into a less Introspective art 
with a new orientation toward imagery. This imagery was not 
immediately tangible as in realistic painting styles, but a kind 
that had grown from the desire of the artists to communicate 
something slightly more tangible, even if only tangible in the 
imagination, to the viewer. This movement has been labeled 
semi-abstraction in this discussion. 

That painters of this group employ the techniques peculiar 
to abstract expressionism is understandable since many of them 



17 

were forerunners of that movement. Others would have to be 

included as serai-abatractlonista for their very willingness to 
pursue the subject and imagery while making use of many of the 
freedoms of technique liberated completely and brought to accep- 
tance by the abstract expressionists. By this alight deviation 
they have given a different orientation to abstract expression- 
ism. The dividing line between invented forms and those derived 
from nature has become increasingly more obscure. The moment 
that Imagery enters into a work, however, associations become 
established which relate the artist's experience to natixre and 
to other men. The men who practiced this form of semi- 
abstraction in 1963 did not feel, as the abstract expressionists 
did, that this association would dilute the quality of the work 
and steal somewhat from its expressive content. 

Hans Hofman would have to be considered as one of the moat 
progressive painters of semi-abstraction in I963, A philosophy 
of natiore underlies every aspect of his art, which at first 
viewing would appear totally abstract in many respects, Robert 
Goodnough, though heavily Influenced by cubism, and Ruben Tarn, 
who has continued to make abstract statements about observed 
landscapes, would be Included in this grouping. These three 
painters ore good examples of three quite different approaches 
to the problems of painting in this semi-abstract style which 
has developed rapidly since World War II, At the time of this 



William Seitz, Hans Hofman , p, 11, 



18 

writing it was observed that an increasing number of painters 
were turning once again toward some form of more or less limited 
investigation of imagery. 

The list of painters of this style would be long if one 
were to include painters such as Willera de Kooning, who fluctuate 
between this roup and total abstract expressionism. Painters 
such as Balcomb Greene, who never agreed with abstract expres- 
sionism in its entirety and who have been leading figures among 
its opponents, must be mentioned. 

It appeared that this form of painting was gaining followers 
by 1963 which had and would in all probability again have a 
definite influence upon American painting, 

GEOMETRIC ABSTRACTION 

Geometric abstraction, long neglected in American art, was 
beginning to gain a great number of followers by 1963. The 
sources of this movement were as diverse as the works of its 
leading practitioners, 

Josef Albers had adhered to his German Eauhaus standards 
where he worked before coming to America in 1933« He was a 
spokesman for the philosophy of an art built exclusively on for- 
mal relations, freed of representation, with no associations and 
dependent only on the interaction of form and color for effect. 
He was a devout disciple of this doctrine with his constant 
investigation of pure color and simple rectilinear shape. 
Included with Albers in the pursuit of aesthetic Bauhaus 



19 

tradition In 1963 was Fritz Glarner. Glarner allowed himself the 
use of slight diagonal tensions which present different aesthetic 
problems to the viewer. Another practitioner of this very formal 
type of expression was Ilya Bolotowsky, Mr, Bolotowsky was one 
of the few painters of this period often concerned with the 
relation of his rectilinear forms in relation to a tondo painting 
sxirface. 

Painters such as I. Rice Pereira, Jabor Peterdl and Jimmy 
Ernst appeared at the opposite end of this geometric style. 
These painters always instilled various romantic and definitely 
associative elements Into their works. As a group these painters 
were more interested in re-exploring the cublstic theories and 
other formal approaches, but in each case the approach never 
appeared as purely aesthetic as that of Albers or Glarner. 

Stuart Davis was an excellent example of a strong painter 
somewhere between the two extremes of this style. He developed 
his own theory of geometric abstraction over a long period of 
time. As a result of this careful investigation he was able to 
give great strength to his works in this direction in 1963* His 
use of pure color and his competent organization of geometric 
form endows each work with a life of its own. 

The greatest downfall of geometric abstraction would appear 
to have been its constant exploitation for commercial aspects. 
Even though it seldom achieves ^jreat aesthetic power in Its 
commercial use, it so saturates the public that they sometimes 
fail to sec its strength as fine art in its own right. 



20 

Ihirlng 1963 a number of paintera who vere making new 
statements and attempting to ahow new avenues for this geometric 
approach deserve mention at this time. They had gained enough 
following for the critics to dub them with the name "hard-edge" 
painters. Their styles were not necessarily innovations, but 
each was quite personal and dedicated to his individual approach. 
Painters such as Earnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Ad Heinhardt, 
Will Barnett and Jack Youngexnnan were all developing various 
aspects of formal abstraction in their search for a simple, valid 
artistic statement. They had in common a love for relations of 
simple shape and in most cases were intrigued with feelings of 
monamental scale. Many painters in this group placed a heavy 
reliance upon nature for their initial inspiration, but others 
were simply in p\u?suit of new aesthetic relations. 

This style of painting is almost sure to continue to make 
important contributions, at least of aesthetic nature, to Ameri- 
can art as it has from its Introduction into this country, 

"POP ART" 

Historically, the newest form of American painting in 1963 
was that movement labeled by the critics and curators of the 
major musettms as "pop art". Although this type of painting 
was most definitely a form of realism, it is discussed under a 
separate heading since it appenrs to break so decisively with 



Gedzahler, Selts, and others, "A Symposium on Pop Art", 
Arts Magazine . April, 1963, 37-1+5* 



2X 

the tradition of art. This typ« of painting (here painting is 
used In the broadest sense of the word as rauch "pop art" has been 
executed with the aid of stencils and other mechanical devfces) 
was a formal art form. It wa? an art of decisions and choices 
rather than one of pure aesthetics and paint quality, 

Roy Llchensteln, a leading "pop" painter, defined this move- 
ment as simply the use of commercial art as subject matter in 
painting. Perhaps this would come as close as anything to a 
definition acceptable to all the so called "pop" painters dis- 
cussed in the followlnf paragraphs, Mr. Llchensteln felt that 
the image should be threatening In content to the observer and 
he attempted to achieve this content by presenting a very commer- 
cial form of art, the comic strip, to the viewer on a f?iant 
scale. He altered the image considerably in moat cases in order 
to insure the viewer's disturbance, Llchensteln disagreed with 
his critics who said he was anti-art in the sense that his art 
did not transfoirra but merely depicted. However, he always 
attempted to redesign the original image no matter how slight the 
change might appear at first glance. He claimed to have used the 
comic strip for purely formal reasons and expressed his belief 

that the subjects depicted were of little importance to the 

3 

finished painting, Llchensteln felt the greatest criticism of 

his work stemmed from the fact that it didn't look like a 



^Swenson, G, R, "What is Pop Art". Part I, Art News, 
November, 1963, 62:23, 

^Ibld,, p, 63. 



22 

painting of something, but rather it appeared to be the thing 
Itself, "If one is to capture the intensity of a comic strip or 
billboard then one must paint It in its original style, ^ 
Mr, Llchenstein felt that to do a mechanical thing in a "paint- 
erly" style would greatly dilute it, "I think the meaning of my 
work is industrial, it is what all the world will soon become."^ 

Robert Indiana £;ave fiirther insight into the style by pro- 
claiming that "pop art" was everything that art had not been for 
the twenty years preceding it. It was a complete reversal back 
to representationallsm. To Mr, Indiana, "pop" was the "American 
dream" as most of his paintings were titled. He felt that some- 
thing had to spring away from abstract expressionism, which by 
its own logic was the end of art. The painters of "pop art" were 
eager to retiarn to ome type of imagery, Indiana proposed that 
"pop art" was itself of two schools, the hard core and the hard 
edge, of which he himself subscribed to the latter, "Pop art" 
was instant art. He believed that this movement best conveyed 
the intuition that man's greatest problem was himself. In 
Indiana's opinion, "pop art" was pre-sold to the American public 
by the abstract expressionists' fight for acceptance, "Pop" was 

very much an American form of painting for It was the "great 

7 
American myth". 



^Swenson, G. H, "What is Pop Art". Part I, Art News, 
November, 1963, 62:63, 

-"ibld,, p. 63. 

^Ibld,, p, 65. 

"^Ibid,, p, 65. 



23 

James Rosenqulst felt that art must retxirn to depicting 

images, but the image had to be one of recent history in order 

o 

to be valid as a "pop" Image, He feared that if the "pop" 
artists were too abstract, people would make something of it 
other then what it was, and thereby have an irrelevant reaction 
to the work. He did not want to create an image with nostalgic 
overtones. 

Paint and paint qual'ty are natural things. Therefore, they 
had no place in the painting of the unnatiiral "pop" image, "Pop" 
artists felt that the image should have the impact of advertising 
since the scope of painting communication was exceedingly old 
fashioned when compared with radio and television, Mr, Rosenqulst 
tried to get as far from nature as possible with little or no 
involvement in the canvas. The relations of the image in "pop 
art" may be the subject matter, but the content must be something 

Q 

more, "Subject matter isn't popular images," 

Jasper Johns was one of the first recognized painters of 
this style, but In 1963 he claimed a different underlying philos- 
ophy. His paintings of popular images were net just those Images 
for their own sake. He was concerned with things not being what 
they were, but with their becoming something other than a target, 
American flag, etc. He felt tb^t subject matter was merely 
determined by what tb* viewer was willing to say It was In any 



o 

Swenson, G. R. "What is Pop Art", Part II, Art News , 
February, I96I4., 62:1^0, 

"^Ibid,, p. III. 



2k 

given work, Ke believed that there wasn't any value in the type 
of thinking which puts limits on things and regretted that the 
artists did not have more control over the way his v;ork war to 
be viewed by the public, 

James Dine was another painter grouped in most cases with 
the leading "pop" artists, who personally felt thfit his work was 
not pure "pop". In the respect that he did not deal with the 
"popular" image he was correct. Fls interest in making paintings 
of personal images of his own surroundings, his walls, his stu- 
dio, etc., placed him in a somewhat different light. In 1963 he 
was only Interested in style as method used in order to make a 
picture work. He felt that for an artist to have a style signi- 
fied that he had only one way to go and the only thing that could 
make a work successful was to make it say what he wanted it to 
say. If some set "style" appeared in the work it was secondary 
to the work itself, ?4r. Dine felt that the work of Edward Hopper 
was closely related to "pop" art in the way he painted gas sta- 
tions, houses, and streets. He felt that it was the fault of 
the general viewer in not beinp- able to get past the subject mat- 
ter in the work of the "pop" artist. This was a common agreement 
among a great many of the painters discussed in this j^roup. 

The "pop" object is used to mnke art and not to brid-i^e the 
gap between art and life as they can never be the same thing. 
According to Mr. Dine, any work of art if successful will make 
a comment on what it is about, however, people confused "pop" art 
with social comment and too many viewers never were able to get 



25 
past this exterior message, 

Andy Warhol was best known in 1963 i*cr his works containing 
repotltlouE sllkscreen stencils of the same subject. He felt 
that everyone should be like everyone else and this was the feel- 
ing he was trying to communicate through his (:iant canvases. He 
believed that "pop" art was liking things and this in turn was 
like being a machine, for everyone in his opinion liked the same 
things. He telieved that artists who were not very good should 
become like evex^yone else so that people would like things that 
aren't very good. In Warhol's opinion style did not make any 
difference and he wanted all artlets to l:e accepted. In other 
words, people would be mechanical in that all would be accepted 
and nothing rejected, Warhol felt that someone else should be 
able to do his paintings for him. He quit commercial art because 
it forced him to Invent things. Perhaps his views were correct, 
but they would appear to be deadly to the creative individual, 

Stephen Diorkee summed up the "pop" movement with his state- 
ments that "pop art" was all there, on whatever level that the 
viewer v;flnted to see it. Real traditions of art arc thousands 
of years old so therefore "pop" did not break tradition as 
claimed. It was all right if the viewer's reaction was negative, 
for the viewer in this case should simply have shared the artist's 
negation. 



^Ewenson, 0. r», "What is Pop Art". Part I, Art News , 
November, 1963, 62:?3, 

■'■^Ibid,, Part II, February, 1961+, p, k2. 



-f: 



26 

This would appear to be the correct means of examining and 
evaluating the "pop art" of 1963» More time will be needed to 
even begin to evaluate its worth or if the case may be, its lack 
of value. However, it should be pointed out at this ttm© that 

the rise of an important movement in art never was the result 

12 
simply of a shift to subject matter, 

CONCLUSION 

It is felt by the candidate that painting, like music, 
exists to be enjoyed rather than commented on. It is not the 
artist's duty to defend his work, but rather to simply share it. 
If his work has given him pleasure in its creation, he should be 
willing to try to communicate this pleasure to others. 

The nature of this writing necessitated arbitrary groupings 
of painters by the author. Readers will agree with some and 
should disagree with others as their own thoughts dictate. Any 
creative artist is surely an Individual and tc even attempt to 
classify him with a ^roup should bring disagreement from the 
artists concerned. There are perhaps as many actvial "styles" in 
painting as there are painters. 

The purpose of this writing has been to clarify certain as- 
pects of contemporary painting in the candidate's mind. It has 
been his hope that this research will prove beneficial in his 
further artistic growth and development. In all probability 
every artist has felt a similar need at one time or another* 



12 

James S. Ackerman, "Abstract Art and the Critics", 

Atlantic, October, 1962, 210:73-78. 



It 

DISCUSSION AND PRESENTATION OF THESIS PAINTINGS 

The palntlnp-s presented on the following pages were executed 
by the candidate during the course of the research and writing of 
this thesis. The candidate has drawn heavily upon the forces, 
forms, and structures found in nature for their creation. He has 
endeavored to give a personal interpretation to the abstraction 
underlying this observance of nature and to accomplish this he 
has drawn upon both observed forms and those that are stimulated 
in the imagination. 

The works presented have been selected by the candidate as 
those felt by him to be of the greatest importance in this period 
of his artistic development. 

The candidate has constantly been concerned with attempting 
to achieve a form of organization that has strength in its own 
right out of the disorganized lines and forms that appeared on 
the CBnves, The works are not mechanical and hard as much of the 
structures of man, but rather are an attempt to capture some of 
the Informal lyrical sense which pervades nature as observed by 
the artist. The border between representation and nonrepresenta- 
tion is often indistinct in contemporary painting. However, no 
associative imagery as such has been intended in the works pre- 
sented on the following pages. 

Names are given to the candidate's paintings after or some- 
times diiring the time of their creation as the images begin to 
have a personal meaning to the artist. In the candidate's paint- 
ings the first statement conceived on the canvas determines the 



28 

next. Attempts to preconceive an exact image result in stifling 
the feelings of arrested notion that must appear for the canvaa 
to have a life of its own in the eyes of the artist. 

The candidate feels that the primary aim of the artist 
should be to grow as a person and if this growth is attained the 
work in whatever medium should develop as it will. To strive 
simply to produce one single perfect work of art is futile for 
if this work was produced, it would by its very perfection be 
the end of the artist's growth and purpose. 

In closing this writing, the candidate would like to present 

a quotation by the painter, Theodores Stamos, which the candidate 

feels to be an excellent summation of his own feelings and 

thoughts on painting. 

Considering that so much has been and will be 
written on art, in the last analysis, painting at its 
best consists of truth to one's paint, to one's self 
and one's time, and most of all to one's God and 
one's dream. 



New American Painting , Museum of Modern Art, 19^8, 



29 




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Oil 34" X 46" 



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31 




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39 



ACKNOWLEDGMENT 

The author wishes to express his thanks and appreciation to 
Professor John P. Helm, Jr., of the College of Architectvire and 
Design, for his Invalxiable assistance in the preparation of this 
thesis. 

Grateful acknowledgment is also given to Mr, Jay Crabb for 
his assistance in the photographic work presented with this 
writing. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 
BOOKS 



Appollonla, Umbro, and others. Art Since 1 914-5 « New York: 
Washington Square Press, I9S2T 

Barr, Alfred H,, Jr, Masters of Modern Art. New York: 
Doubleday and Company, 19TB. 

^ What is Modern Painting ? New York: 

Doubleday and Company ,"^^9^9 • 

Goodrich, Lloyd and John I. H. Baur. American Art of Our 
Century . New York: Praeger, 1961, 

« Fovu? American Express lon - 

lets . New York: Praeger, 19^9. 

Goodrich, Lloyd, Pioneers of Modern Art In America . New York: 
Praeger, 1963. 

Kennedy, Elsenhower, and others. Creative America . New York: 
Ridge Press, 1962. 

Klee, Paul. Paul Klee on Modern Art . London: Paber and Faber, 
1962. 

Langul, Emlle, 5^ Years of riodern Art . New York: Praeger, 
1959. 

O'Hara, Frank. Jackson Pollack . New York: George Erazllles, 
1959. 

Rodman, Seldon. Conversations with Artists . New York: Devin- 
Adalr Co., 1§WU 

Seltz, William C. Hans Hofman . New York: Doubleday and Com- 
pany, 1963. 

Seltz, Peter. Mark Rothko. New York: Doubleday and Company, 
1961. 

Seuphor, Michel, Abstract Painting . New York: Harry N. Abrams, 
1960. 

Weller, Allen S. Art U.S.A, Now. Vol. I and II, New York: 
Viking Press, 1963. 



PERIODICALS 



Akerman, James, "Abstract Art and the Critics," Atlantic , 
October, 1962, 210:73-78. 

Gedzahler, Seltz, and others, "A Symposium on Pop Art," Arts 
Magazine . April, 1963, 37-I|5. 

Meyers, John Bernard, "The Impact of Surrealism on the New York 
School," Everpq?een Review , Spring, I960, l+:75-85» 

O'Hara, Prank, "Franz Kline Talking," Evergreen Review , Autumn, 
1956, 2:58-68. 

Rubin, William. "Ellsworth Kelly: The Big Form," Art News , 
November, 1963, 62:31, 

Swenson, G. R, "What is Pop Art," Part I, Art News , November, 
1963, 62:23. 

Swenson, G, R. "What is Pop Art." Part II, Art News , February, 
1961;, 62:1^0, 

CATALOGUES OP EXHIBITIONS 

American Art Since 1950 « Seattle Worlds Fair, 1962. 

Americans 1963 . Museum of Modern Art, 1963. 

Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture . University of 
Illinois, 1955. 

Contemporary American Painting; and Sculpture . University of 
Illinois, 1959. 

Ci-ntemporary American Painting and Sculpture. University of 

Illinois, 1961. 

Contemporary American Painting and Sculptiire. University of 

Illinois, 1963. 

New American Painting. Museum of Modern Art, 1958. 

12 Americans , Museum of Modern Art, 1956. 

" Pop Art". Nelson Gallery, Atkins Museum, I960. 



INFLUENCEIS IN AMERICAN PAINTING 1963 
WITH A PRESENTATION OP THESIS PAINTINGS 



by 



JOHN ANDREW BRITTON 
B, A,, Kansas State University, 1962 



AN ABSTRACT 



Of 



A I-IASTER'S THESIS 



submitted in partial fulfillment of the 



requirements for the degree 



MASTER OF ARTS 



College of Architecture and Design 



KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY 
Manhattan, Kansas 



1961^ 



This thesis was conceived as a combination of research into 
contemporary American painting and the candidate's personal stu- 
dio work. It was the hope and intention of the candidate that 
the research involved in this writing would be beneficial to 
Increasing the strength of his painting. 

The first part of this thesis presents a survey of influ- 
ences and movements in American painting that appeared to be 
prevalent in 1963, For purposes of discussion the author found 
it necessary to present certain painters of this period in group- 
ings according to various observed aspects of their work and 
certain mutual philosophies. These groupings were developed from 
observation of paintings at exhibitions and in catalogues, a 
study of statements by these painters where available and by the 
weisjhing of various opinions of art historians and critics. The 
various painters considered are presented under these headings: 
Romantic Realism, Precision Realism, Surrealism, Symbolism, 
Social Commentators, FJxpressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Semi- 
Abstraction, Geometric Abstraction and "Pop Art", 

Ten examples of the candidate's oil paintings are presented 
in the second major part of this thesis. Photographs of these 
paintings are Included in the text along with a brief essay con- 
taining the candidate's personal beliefs in regard to his own 
studio work. It was felt by the axithor that a personal evalua- 
tion of this nature was necessary at this stage of his artistic 
development in order to strengthen or discredit various personal 
beliefs and clarify certain aspects of his own studio work. 



2 

It is the candidate's belief that research and observation 
of this natiire is essential to some extent in the personal devel- 
opment of most artists at one time or another regardless of their 
preferred medium. The conclusions and observations presented in 
this thesis might well serve as a starting point for a more 
intensive study of a particular aspect of contemporary painting 
of interest to the reader. It was observed during the course of 
this writing that there are perhaps as many styles and influencea 
in painting as there are creative individuals who choose to 
express themselves through painting. However, it was concluded 
that enough painters were interested in similar uses of the 
medium or had enough common philosophy to treat them as influen- 
tial groups in a discussion of this nature.